Nazi's lakeside sojourn raises Italian hackles

12th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 August 2005, ROME - Seven years since Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke was given a life sentence by an Italian military tribunal for his role in a 1944 massacre, the former SS officer is again in Italian headlines.

11 August 2005

ROME - Seven years since Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke was given a life sentence by an Italian military tribunal for his role in a 1944 massacre, the former SS officer is again in Italian headlines.

At the time of his sentencing many were pleased that Italy's justice system could convict Priebke 55 years after the events in question.

But a military court has now given him permission to holiday in a villa on the shore of Italy's Lake Maggiore - in the former summer residence of another high-ranking Nazi.

Now Priebke is again on the front pages: "Scandalous holiday" commented daily La Repubblica.

The memory of the Fosse Ardeatine massacre for which Priebke was convicted still runs high in Italy. Some 335 Italian civilians were shot dead in the killings, which happened at the Ardeatine caves just outside Rome on March 4, 1944.

The massacre is regarded as the worst single war crime committed during the German occupation of Italy.

The decision by the convicting judge to condemn Priebke to house arrest because of his ill health caused concern to many at the time. But allowing him to travel to one of Italy's favourite holiday spots has enraged even more.

In explaining his decision to allow Priebke to go on holiday the judge said the prisoner was a sick man and that he "had conformed to the rules of his arrest".

"We can accept the house arrest in Rome," said one politician. But the holiday on the lake is an insult."

Further stoking the controversy is the choice of domicile on Lake Maggiore. The villa formerly belonged to Hermann Bickler, a high- ranking official of the SS in occupied Paris.

"Priebke is taking a vacation in the villa of a former Gestapo man," commented La Repubblica. The news that members of Italy's secret service will guard him during his stay is small consolation for many.

Priebke was arrested in 1994 after he gave an interview to a U.S. television channel in Argentina, where he had spent the previous 50 years. He was later extradited to Italy for trial.

His name has appeared in the Italian media several times since his conviction. He sued two Italian journalists in 2001 for EUR 500,000 in damages because they had called him a "hangman". The case was later dropped.

In 2003 Priebke sent a petition for clemency to Italy's President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who rejected it.

His trip to Lake Maggiore has once again made the convicted war criminal the talk of Italy and refreshed memories of the events in 1944.

"He is not wanted here. He committed terrible crimes and we can't forget what he did," said one resident from the popular tourist destination on the Swiss border.

DPA

Subject: German news

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